Five of us tumbled out of the car at Tullow; after overdue flights, we were nearly late for the start of the retreat.
As we walked towards the long grey building one of us was heard to say that his Catholic past was reaching out to oppress him. But it wasn’t like that at all, the building was light and full of flowers and friendliness. Bedrooms were light and bathrooms plentiful, food good, and the staff were an absolute delight. They could not do enough for us. The retreat organisers had everything calmly and competently in hand.
As a long time sitter at the feet of Donal Creedon, I knew what to expect, teachings – and lots of sitting. We had both in abundance, based on Ringu Tulku’s book, ‘Like Dreams and Clouds’*. I particularly valued the guided meditations in the afternoons. There is a quality in Donal’s retreats that comes from the fact that he is always there, quietly, unassumingly, definitely present. He calls it ‘holding the space’, and this is exactly how it is. We sit, and wander off to meditate in the garden (full of the most beautiful and unusual trees), and when we come back, there he always is. It gives a quality to the retreat that I have not found in others where the teacher comes and goes.
Each evening, there was a dialogue/discussion, mostly on the theme of the retreat, which was ‘Sorrow’. The Gerard Manley Hopkins poem Donal chose to illustrate his theme was perhaps a bit challenging, especially to non-English speakers, with its archaic language and sprung rhythm, but we touched deeply on the subject on a couple of the evenings.
It was a pleasure to be with people from so many countries all with the same purpose, and of course the always lovely Irish.
|Group retreat dialogue|
*Like Dreams and Clouds, Emptiness and Interdependence; Mahamudra and Dzogchen’ Ringu Tulku Rinpoche 2011. Bodhicharya Publications Heart Wisdom Series
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Photos: Romain Ricard, Balthazaar de Andrade, Hilary Hawker.